We all have some wishes, ideals, something we find important. We all value something or someone, we take pride in something, we support something, in principle we stand behind many things. We are people of values, to say to someone that he has no values is the same as to say to him he has no meaning, that he is not a good person, we will face instant rebellion. But sooner or later, in an easier or in a more difficult way we will find ourselves in a situation that the very thing that we love and estimate, what we stand for, what we support will be in jeopardy. It is not merely enough to have values and ideals, it is important to defend them. He who does not defend his values, who is not ready to make a sacrifice for them and to put himself out for them cannot really say that those are his values and ideals, he might be a supporter of all that but he is not a person who is in possession of them and even less can he talk about being a person who is living those values. Present time seems to be big on words. Everything is full of those who support the rights of those or the others, who have such and such values, who take pride in this and that aspect of their acquired identity. We belong to this nation, to this family, to this denomination, in principle we belong, in principle we speak out, in principle we support, most often from our own armchair unfortunately only criticizing others. The real question is what of all that do we actually live by? Nobody wants to find themselves in a situation where his values are in jeopardy. We feel such situations are the utmost attack on us, that is usually even the case, but it is more important how we act in those situations. What do we find really important? What do we still stand for when we are ultimately pressured? And in what way do we plan to defend what we really care for? Answers to those questions speak about our true values, about who we really are.
In a place where Croatian people had to put in a long lasting and painstaking effort to defend themselves from Turkish attacks which threatened their territory, existence, identity and beliefs we can ask ourselves two things. The first one is, behind which values will we firmly stand even when they are endangered and under attack, for which values are we willing to stand for and make a sacrifice even when that means an ultimate sacrifice and inconvenience? Under Turkish conquests whoever stayed firm in their faith and identity had to agree to lesser living conditions and paying high taxes, to a perpetual fight and threat, it was tempting to give in, to switch sides, to accept different values and a different culture, to remain firm meant to stand for something despite everything. To build a fort on a cliff, to defend something we recognize as deeply our own and right no matter the more powerful opponent. Everyone is afraid of dying, but wasn’t it easier for defenders who were significantly smaller in numbers and had to persist in stern conditions to run away or to even die and let go of the fate of this country to chance than to face the Turks and spend their entire lives on something they might have never lived to see. They were writing the history of their people, they were writing the history of Europe maybe not even seeing much further than their immediate personal values about which they only knew that they must not abandon them. How much are we willing to invest ourselves for our values when it becomes utterly inconvenient and dangerous to stand by them and if we give up in those moments are those then really our values?
The second question that comes forth is the way we will defend our values and attitudes. Often when we are threatened we see the other as an ultimate aggressor and usurper, he might really be that, but by which means do we plan to protect ourselves? Wandering on the paths of pursuing the justice can lead us astray into ugly places where although we stand behind different values and fight from different motives in practice the difference between us and the oppressor vanishes. We also can step out of line and become the aggressor. Unfortunately, it can often happen that while defending one value we can actually wade over it or others close to her. By defending something of our own, our identity, nationality, attitudes, those weaker than us, we must not step over the higher principles of justice, honor, gentleness, peace, goodness and mercy, we must not become tyrants ourselves because than it turns out that we actually betrayed the very thing that we say we represent and those who we say we represent. Often we want to hit back in the same measure when we see injustice and aggression, to act towards the evildoer exactly as he did towards us but a higher question then arises: if your goodness depends on the goodness of the other is that then really your goodness? First we must deeply possess and guard within us the values that we state to be for and that we state to defend because otherwise very quickly we will find ourselves in a situation where under pressure we lose our ground and a greater Enemy than the earthly one has won.
We might give up fast, and we might not be aware that by guarding ourselves and our values on the right path we guard more than what we can see. We might be guarding the future, we might be providing the foundation of a secure life and identity for those who do not even exist yet. We might be more important than we think. Perhaps our goodness, fidelity, staying on the right track and with the right values is more important than we think. If we look back on the people to whom we owe our freedom and they couldn’t even imagine us we can surely conclude that we to belong to the same line of responsibility and that how we cat today is not unimportant for the future. We all hope that we are not the ones who will have to go through difficult trials in defense of our values but that is something we cannot know in advance, we can only agree with what Tolkien has written: ‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’